Dalli U-turn on Brussels’ inclusive language advice after rightwing outcry

EU guidelines promoted use of ‘holiday season’ instead of Christmas as part of inclusive language guidelines

Equality commissioner Helena Dalli
Equality commissioner Helena Dalli

A European Commission document calling on officials to use inclusive language such as “holiday season” rather than Christmas has been withdrawn.

Equality commissioner Helena Dalli launched the guidelines at the end of October, but the guidelines were received with widespread outcry from rightwing politicians.

Former president of the European parliament Antonio Tajani, a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, subsequently jumped on the issue to voice their opposition to the “absurd” advice. “Inclusion does not mean denying the Christian roots of [the EU]”, Tajani tweeted.

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In response, Dalli, who had tweeted a picture of herself with the guidelines on 26 October, along with comments speaking of her pride in launching the document, issued an apologetic statement.

“My initiative to draft guidelines as an internal document for communication by commission staff in their duties was intended to achieve an important aim: to illustrate the diversity of European culture and showcase the inclusive nature of the European commission towards all walks of life and beliefs of European citizens,” she said.

Dalli went on to say that the guidelines “clearly need more work... I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document,” the commissioner tweeted.

Officials were advised to avoid gender-specific pronouns and gendered words and phrases such as “chairman”, “ladies and gentleman” or “man-made”.

It was suggested that officials ask people what their pronouns are and to be careful using terms such as “gay” and “lesbians” as a noun. “Transgender, bi or intersex are not nouns. Say trans people, gay person, etc or refer to the person explicitly,” it was suggested.

Following Dalli’s U-turn, Tajani tweeted that the rethink was a victory for common sense. He was joined in celebrating the move by the former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who tweeted: “It was an absurd and wrong document. A community is not afraid of its roots. And cultural identity is a value, not a threat.”

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